Tilea West has been named the inaugural recipient of a Southwestern Scholarship in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, or S-STEM, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The first year, second semester transfer student brings with her a passion for math and willingness to lead.

“I like how Southwestern supports and has emphasis on helping students grow to be a math person even if they’re not,” says West.

Tilea knew Southwestern was her match after she met current students, visited the campus, and learned about the S-STEM scholarship.

“This school encompasses everything,” says West. “It creates a hybrid education that’s really, really good for the students.”

Emily Niemeyer is a professor of chemistry at SU and serves as the Project Director for the S-STEM program.

“When we were initially screening students for the scholarships, Tilea rose to the top very quickly,” says Niemeyer.

She says West encompassed everything the selection committee was seeking in a worthy recipient: leadership, interest in mathematics or computer science, a student who has faced adversity, has a true need for financial assistance, and has a passion for learning and education.

“Learning is kind of a way for her to see the world, and she’s very passionate about math,” says Professor Niemeyer. “She’s a student that’s so worthy of support.”

Niemeyer was also key in bringing the grant that supports the S-STEM program to Southwestern. Southwestern was awarded the $614,325 grant in 2015 by the National Science Foundation. Each hand-selected science and math student will receive $10,000 per year for the four years they attend Southwestern. This scholarship is stacked onto additional  financial aid that students are receiving, which allows more financial breathing room.

So far, West is the first and only recipient, but the S-STEM committee is in the process of selecting Fall 2016 candidates from an application process which includes an essay and personal interviews. The committee hopes to award scholarships to at least ten more recipients for the fall semester, but the application deadline has already come to close.

“If we get a whole cohort of Tilea’s for the fall, we’ll be in great shape,” says Niemeyer.

Niemeyer also says this scholarship opportunity is a natural fit for Southwestern, which — as an institution — is seeking to give opportunities for financially needy and underrepresented students within key majors, including physics, math and computer science.

“We have less majors in these areas overall than other areas of the sciences, yet the employment opportunities for students in those areas is really strong,” says Niemeyer.  

West recognized these opportunities and is extremely interested in the projectile development field. She has a dream of working in the aerospace industry and this scholarship is a game-changer for her collegiate career.

“It’s allowing me to do opportunities like internships,” says West. “Because prior to that, I would have had a lot more student loans, and would not have been able to do unpaid projects.”

West will also serve as a mentor and ambassador for incoming fall students. Niemeyer says her role is critical, as she will be a role model to influence and encourage other students to consider a degree in STEM.